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Death Stud. 1987;11(4):263-77.

Changes in doctor/patient communication of a terminal prognosis: a selective review and critique.


Numerous studies have examined the willingness of physicians to communicate a terminal prognosis to a patient. The pattern of results suggests that there has been a shift from a widespread tendency not to tell patients of such a prognosis in the 1950s to a widespread tendency to tell in the 1980s. This paper reviews ten articles which document this apparent shift. In addition, this review reveals methodological, statistical, and theoretical shortcomings of the literature. These shortcomings seriously undermine the ability to use this literature as a basis for supporting what might otherwise be a reasonable claim concerning the shift in physicians' behavior. Hence, the present paper examines the nature of these shortcomings and makes suggestions for rectifying such problems in future research.

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